Philadelphia 76ers point guard TJ McConnell recently caught up with HoopsHype to discuss his role in the 2019 Eastern Conference postseason.
The upcoming free agent explained his role on the squad to HoopsHype and shared some interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the team dynamics in Philadelphia.
What have been some of the biggest differences you’ve seen in your second appearance?
TJ McConnell: Last year, we played Miami and it was a really physical series. That’s just the way Miami plays. They’ll knock you off your line. This year, the series with the Nets was up and down – they can really get out and go, they have a lot of weapons on offense to score. Their first game against us, they showed us how dangerous they can be. It just comes down to making shots. We did a good job of adjusting but they really made us guard the entire game for the whole series.
What about mentally? How has your previous experience helped or factored into your game?
TM: I think a player in my role, someone coming off the bench, just has to always stay ready no matter what. Because your role can change in a minute during the playoffs. You know, it has, for a lot of us. We have to continue to stay ready and when our number is called, we have to go out there and produce.
With such changing personnel, what’s one thing you have done to make your new teammates feel like they are a part of the 76ers?
TM: It’s just about being personable and making them feel at home. I think me and Joel Embiid have been here the longest so we know what it is like here. But coming to a new place midseason isn’t easy. We try to make them feel welcomed, which they are. We’re happy to have everyone that we were able to acquire.
Even though the second unit has changed drastically, you are playing some of the most efficient basketball of your career. How do you adjust to playing with so many new teammates?
TM: The bigs do such a great job of screening and I have a lot of confidence in my pull-up jumper and getting to my spots. For me, it’s not just going out of my comfort zone and then doing what I do best and try to do it at a high level.
Moving forward, what are some mentalities you would like to carry both for yourself and for your team?
TM: I just want to go out there and bring energy, which inspires us to play harder. I’ve been honing in more on my three’s and spotting up and shooting them when I’m open and trying to knock them down.
What are some things about your new teammates that you have learned that may have surprised you or others might not know?
TM: All of the guys we acquired this year work extremely hard. It’s really awesome to see. But I didn’t know Jimmy likes country music. He introduced me to country music. I listen to it a lot more now. He really likes wine, too, and JJ and I are big wine guys so it’s been cool to see.
That is amazing. So what’s on the shared playlist with you and Jimmy?
TM: He is always playing Florida Georgia Line, Mitchell Tenpenny. It’s all over the place. But it’s been cool to kind of hear the music he likes and to listen to that. I didn’t really listen to country music before. Now I’m like into country music and stuff like the Chainsmokers. Not so much EDM where the bass is overwhelming, though.
I’ll have to ask about a personal favorite of mine… Anything from Kacey Musgraves?
TM: I actually listened to Kacey a bit, I didn’t hear that from him. But I’m a big fan of her song called “Rainbow” and she’s really talented. She’s super talented and it’s awesome. Talent is talent. You hear something on the radio and you’re thinking: ‘This person can sing.’ Then I looked her up and watched the music videos. I feel like my wife always tells me: ‘You’re always listening to the same song!’ So I don’t want to overplay it too much where you start to overplay it. She’s phenomenal.
You’re a Steelers fan, too, right? What are your thoughts on the drama between Antonio Brown and the franchise?
TM: Huge! I hope JuJu Smith-Schuster has a huge season. He deserves it, he’s a good dude. I’ve never met him but he signed a football for me once and that was pretty awesome.